Bake them! Cake them! Poach them! Your end-of-summer self will thank you (and so will your vanilla ice cream).
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We are about to leave for our last trip of the summer. I’ll tell you more about where when I get back, but we’re doing this one the way we do so many—-down to the wire. Andras is packing the car, I booked the cottage late last night, and the kids packed their bags just before bedtime (big kid perks) after a long lazy Sunday swim.
I am learning to let go. To release the perfectly mapped and scheduled. Some of our best trips have been this way—PORTUGAL last Spring, HVAR (Croatia) the previous two summers, and five dreamy days in MICHIGAN in July—armed with Google Maps, a handful of recommendations, and a heavy lean into the trail of gorgeous, geo-tagged photos online while we drive (why use precious summer hours to map the trip when the long drive provides plenty of time?).
Before I go, I wanted to leave you with some plum good ideas for the the last of your stone fruit of the season.
Under normal circumstances, I’d have lots to say about plums—the flavors, the types, how to pick and store them— especially when I get to talking about Hungary, where plums are a way of life. Read more in my recent article, Hungarian Rhapsody, in FOOD & WINE—which we shot this time last year with the beloved photographer Aubrie Pick, who spent a magical week with us capturing our life there. In it, you’ll find this toothsome Szilvás Pita—or HUNGARIAN PLUM CAKE.
Here’s what I had to say about this cake in the article—which, frankly, describes all styles of country cakes I’ve learned to bake from my Mother-in-law, Erzsébet, over the last 16 years:
In Hungary, we sprinkle plums into thick, earthy tortes laced with poppy seeds. To me, these tortes offer the taste of perseverance; the story of shifting borders, world wars, communist rule, and the 1956 revolution — all baked in a humble cake. It’s the food of the village folk, of our family, that I crave on the long stretches between trips. Like the people themselves, it is modest but remarkable.
I have other ideas, too.
In my latest book, INSTANT FAMILY MEALS, I taught you how to poach plums in the pressure cooker (pictured, top). They will hold their shape—plump and round— yet ooze out the most potent, ruby-hued liquid. You can do it on the stovetop, too; just be careful not to overcook them; you want them to stay whole. But even if they break down, they’re perfect for spooning over premium vanilla ice cream (by premium, I mean no funny ingredients. Just a dense, wholesome ice cream made of cream, milk, eggs, and sugar—with some vanilla bean. Try Häagan-Dazs, Alden’s Organic, or Adirondack Creamery, if you happen to live in the Hudson Valley).
If I was having company this coming weekend (We’re not; we entertained at home four times last week—I’m taking Labor Day off!) I would make my Whipped Feta with Plum, Tomato, and Avocado Salad) which is 1000x easier than it sounds and so satisfying, in that trendy restaurant way, without the price tag.
People rave about Marian Burros Plum Cake from the New York Times. Even if a few trusted sources tell me it’s overrated, it’s hard to argue with 10,000 five-star reviews. Still, if I’m not going to make my own poppy plum cake, I’m inclined to make Erin McDowell’s Plum Cobbler Bars (paywall), because I’m a streusel gal.
If you haven’t made a galette yet this season, can I suggest Bon Ap’s Peach Plum Galette, which will give you those end-of-summer vibes? Here’s another galette from these pages, which will work well with plums, too (the almonds in the crust and on top are a plum’s perfect pairing).
I’m leaving you here with a humble ask. In early June, just as my Food & Wine article came out, Aubrie shared the news that she has an aggressive form of lymphoma that’s wreaking havoc on her beautiful family—her daughter Romy and her husband Erik, who we also shared time with during our shoot in our little village last year.
Truth: we fell in love with all of them. They are equal parts creativity and magic, love and big hearts.
Aubrie is a very strong woman, but even the strongest among us need help. And it takes bravery to ask for it. So if you can, if you’re moved by giving back and helping a bright light that brings art and beauty to the world, give HERE.
If you’d like another way to give, I’m offering 50% off subscriptions to my newsletter for this week, in honor of Aubrie; and donating to her GoFundMe this Sunday. There are well over 10,000 free subscribers here, so imagine what your modest give could add up to. Sending love and strength to a leading artist and loving mother with much more to create in this world.